Dwarf Barberry Care: How To Grow Crimson Pygmy Barberry Shrubs
The Dwarf Barberry (Ceratophyllum sp.) is one of the most popular dwarf shrub species in cultivation today. These beautiful trees are easy to grow and provide a variety of ornamental and medicinal uses. They have been used for centuries in folk medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. Their use has increased over the past few decades due to their ease of growing, low maintenance requirements, and ability to withstand harsh climates.
In addition to being a useful tree for decoration, they are excellent at absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which helps slow climate change. A dwarf barberry can absorb up to 40% of its weight in CO2!
These trees are native to Europe and Asia, but they were introduced into North America in the early 1900’s. Since then they have spread rapidly throughout the eastern United States and Canada. They are now found almost everywhere except Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico where they only occur as solitary bushes or small patches.
They grow slowly with a height of 5 feet (1.5 m) tall and 10 inches (25 cm) wide. They prefer damp areas in partially shaded areas, but can also grow in full sun. They prefer wet soil with rich humus and tolerate various temperatures, but since they are woodland plants they need protection from extreme cold. They contain poisonous alkaloids which leech into the soil and are toxic to many common garden plants.
Royal Burgundy Barberry :
The Royal Burgundy barberry is a deciduous shrub that grows to about 4 feet (1.2m) tall and about 6 feet (1.8m) wide. It has dark green palmate leaves turning a vivid orange-red in the fall. It produces small yellow flowers in spring that are not very showy but the seed heads that follow are attractive.
Crimson Pygmy Barberry :
The Crimson Pygmy barberry is a deciduous shrub that grows to 3 feet (0.9m) tall and 4 feet (1.2m) wide. It has palmate leaves turning a vivid red in the fall. It produces small yellow flowers in spring followed by attractive dark purple fruits.
Royal Burgundy Barberry vs Crimson Pygmy Barberry :
Both of these barberries have similar cultural requirements and therefore can be used interchangeably in most cases. The Royal burgundy barberry is slightly larger than the Crimson pygmy barberry, but this isn’t always the case. The main difference is the color of the fall foliage; The Royal burgundy has a more pronounced reddish color than the Crimson pygmy.
Uses Of Dwarf Barberry :
The uses of the dwarf barberry are varied. It is a popular ornamental hedge in Europe and North America. Its fruits, leaves, and rootstocks have all been used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans and early American settlers.
The fruits are edible but bland and dry out quickly. They can be used to make jams and jellies. The berries can also be used to make a nice deep red ink. The leaves have a high tannin content and were once used in the tanning of leather.
The rootstock is very hardy and has been used as rootstock for apple trees. It has shown some promise for use in phytoremediation to clean up heavy metals and organic pollutants from contaminated soils.
Today, the dwarf barberry is most often seen in home gardens where it is used as an ornamental landscape bush. It tolerates a wide range of conditions and is easy to grow. It is deer resistant and has few insect or disease problems.
The female plants can be propagated by seed, but male plants must be grown from cuttings for them to produce berries. Grafting isn’t required but may be done to speed growth and to produce more uniform plants.
This plant has showy fall color, which makes it a good choice for the fall garden.
Uses Of Barberry :
Many Native American tribes used the barberry for many different purposes. The roots were boiled to make a bitter tea that was used to treat diarrhea. The bark of the branches was boiled to make a wash for treating skin conditions and sore throat. A poultice made from the fruit was used to treat boils and sores. The fruit was also made into a syrup that was taken orally to treat colds, coughs, and sore throats.
The Iroquois used the berries as a red dye for basket weaving.
The dried leaf and stem were smoked with tobacco.
The dried root was used to treat worms.
The dried root was also used as a substitute for ginger when cooking.
The dried bark was used to treat pain.
The dried root was ground into a powder and used as a treatment for abortions.
While no parts of the barberry are used medicinally today, it is an interesting footnote in the history of medicine.
Downsides Of Barberry :
The only real downside to barberry is that it tends to be messy. The branches have thorns and the berries are easily dislodged by the wind, causing a mess in your garden. The fruits stain clothing and produce a dark stain on driveways and sidewalks when their falls onto them.
Barberry is also mildly poisonous. The foliage and berries can cause a skin rash in some people and the berries are considered to be toxic, though they must be consumed in large quantities to be lethal.
The fruits of the Crimson pygmy barberry are even more toxic and should not be consumed at all. Many birds, including cedar waxwings, however enjoy the fruits and distribute the seeds in their droppings.
The fruits of the royal barberry are edible. They have a tart flavor and can be eaten fresh or used to make preserves, jams, or jellies.
The fruits of the fruitless barberry are less tart and can be eaten fresh.
The fruit of the Japanese barberry can be cooked and eaten, but has an exceptionally bitter taste.
How To Grow Barberry :
Barberry is easy to grow from seed and cuttings. The plants are hardy and need a minimum of care to thrive.
They can be grown in large containers or in the ground. They need full sun and tolerate dry, poor soil.
They can be easily propagated by seed.
Grow barberry in clusters for a dramatic effect in the landscape or grow them along a fence line or wall.
As a member of the rose family, the stems of barberry are often devoid of thorns like most rose family members, but they sometimes have thorns too. The stems can reach a height of 12 feet and can become quite thick.
Bareberry grows quite quickly and can easily be trained as a hedge. It’s a good idea to keep them trimmed in the beginning, but once they are established they require little maintenance.
They thrive in poor soil with very little care and make excellent border plantings.
Barberry tolerates drought, heat, cold, and poor soils. They also tolerate some light shade, making them an excellent understory plant in the wilderness.
Barberry is a nitrogen fixer, which means it captures nitrogen from the air and deposits it in the soil. This is good for the soil and makes barberry a good companion plant for other plants.
They also attract wildlife. Flowers are mainly pollinated by bees, butterflies, and flies. The berries are eaten by numerous birds, which then distribute the seeds through their droppings.
Barberry is a good choice for a rain garden. It can tolerate occasional flooding and does not mind wet soil.
Barberry is one of the best plants to use for erosion control on steep hillsides. It is drought tolerant once it is established, so it will not contribute to runoff as most plants will when planted on steep slopes.
How To Use Barberry :
The fruits of the common barberry are very tart. They can be made into jellies and jams and are often used in syrups and sorbets.
Barberry can be used in tea. The dried root bark has a long history of medicinal use in India, where it is commonly known as “amla.”
The fruit has been used for many years in Chinese medicine. It is dried and made into a medicinal paste that is applied topically to treat skin conditions.
Common barberry can be used as an ornamental plant or for making jams and jellies. The fruits are very high in vitamin C and antioxidants. They can be cooked into a syrup and used as a flavoring for other foods.
The fruits can be eaten fresh off the plant. They are very tart and not usually eaten by themselves. In fact, they are commonly used to make jellies and jams.
Barberry is one of the most drought tolerant plants in North America. It is resistant to most insects and diseases when grown in healthy soil.
Barberry will thrive just about anywhere. It is easy to grow and tolerates poor, dry soil. It is so hardy that it can even be invasive in some areas. It is commonly found growing along roadsides and in fields.
A traditional medicinal herb, barberry has been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has been used topically for the treatment of skin conditions such as eczema and other inflammatory conditions. It can also be used to treat gastrointestinal issues.
The dried root bark of the common barberry has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. The bark is dried and ground into a powder. This powder has been used internally to treat gastric issues, such as stomach ulcers.
The fruits of the common barberry have been used for centuries to make syrups and jams. They are very high in antioxidants, including vitamin c. They can be made into jams and syrups, or can be eaten fresh off the bush. They are very tart, so they are usually mixed with sweeter fruits when made into jams and jellies.
The inner bark of the common barberry has been used to make many different dyes throughout history. The color of the dye produced varies greatly based on the soil conditions where the plant is grown.
The dried root bark has been used for centuries in traditional medicine. It has been used to lower blood pressure and treat heart conditions. It has also been used to treat gastrointestinal issues such as stomach ulcers.
The wood of the common barberry is soft and not very strong, but it has a very pretty orange color. It has been used for many years to make furniture, art and small decorative items.
Seeds can be collected from the plant when it is in fruit in the fall. They can be sprouted and grown indoors. Transplanted seedlings require a sunny, outdoor location with well-draining, but not dry soil. Grows well in sandy or gravelly soil. Likes acidic soil.
Does not grow well in clay or muck soil. Plant roots are invasive. Plant tubers 8 inches deep and 4 feet apart. Fruits do not need to be buried when propagating.
Barberry shrubs are generally short and have a rounded form. They grow slowly and prefer acidic soil. They can grow in full sun to partial shade and do well in wet or dry soil, though they prefer soil that is on the dry side. They are found growing wild in fields, forests, and along roadsides.
They prefer sandy, gravel, or rocky soils that dry out between waterings.
Sources & references used in this article:
Four cultivars of Japanese barberry demonstrate differential reproductive potential under landscape conditions by JM Lehrer, MH Brand, JD Lubell – HortScience, 2006 – journals.ashs.org
Fecundity of Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) cultivars and their ability to invade a deciduous woodland by MH Brand, JM Lehrer, JD Lubell – Invasive Plant Science and Management, 2012 – BioOne
Japanese Barberry by AX Niemiera – 2009 – vtechworks.lib.vt.edu